Research & Documentation Shop

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Annie in waterThe Research and Documentation Shop serves two major functions that relate directly to our historic watercraft. The first is to collect historic information related to the Museum’s floating collection. The second is to record the day-to-day maintenance and large-scale restoration work carried out by the Shipyard staff, as they continue to preserve these vessels for future generations.

In the early days of Mystic Seaport, when wooden boat building was still practical, repair and restoration were interchangeable. It was hard to imagine that the detailed knowledge of boat building would ever need preserving. Boats were often repaired following standard practice without thinking about in-kind replacement or other preservation standards we now accept. It became apparent that historic fabric and traditional methods of construction were slowly being lost. The Documentation Shop was created to help ensure that our vessels would retain their individual character and maintain their physical record for information.

The Documentation Shop centralizes copies of historic drawings, photographs and documents that are carefully studied for details of a vessel’s history and construction. This information comes from donated material and careful research. The shop is primarily used by the Museum’s shipwrights, carpenters and riggers, who use the information to help maintain accuracy in their work. This means a vessel’s historic fabric is preserved and when needed, accurately reproduced to reflect original construction techniques.

In turn, the employees and volunteers of the Documentation Shop record this restoration work. Throughout a given project photographs are taken, drawings generated, and work logs written to carefully chronicle the process of restoration. This work is important as it shows how we have cared for the watercraft during our tenure. In the future, our work will be scrutinized when the vessels once again need restoration.

Since its creation, the Documentation Shop’s scope has increased to include the measurement of relevant vessels and half models both in and outside the Museum’s collections. These watercraft and models are digitally measured and then drawn with CAD (computer aided drafting) software to produce accurate drawings. These drawings are then turned over to the Ships Plans department for storage, where they are accessible to the public for study.